Empire Properties began more than 25 years ago with a single restoration project in Downtown Raleigh’s warehouse district. With the success of that project, Empire quickly grew to dozens of restoration projects with a focus on revitalization of downtown Raleigh through the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and creative infill.
The goal quickly became to add more life to the downtown and follow its mission to revitalize downtown Raleigh through the adaptive reuse of historic buildings.
Of course, that was never Greg Hatem’s original intention. Back in 1995 when the first warehouse building was under contract, it was intended to be more of a hobby. Greg was helping his brother, Joe Pat Hatem, and a basketball buddy from the YMCA, Bucky Ransdell, buy a building or two in downtown because it seemed cool. They spent a year renovating the space and soon after, Jillian’s Billiards Club became Empire’s first tenant.
More than 25 years later, Empire has renovated more than 70 buildings in downtown Raleigh and Durham and manages more than one million square feet of office, retail, restaurant, and warehouse space. The growth over the years has been driven by the company’s focus on revitalizing downtown Raleigh by providing active street-level uses and spaces for tenants to grow and thrive.
Over the years, Empire rarely shied away from a tough project, no matter how old the building was or the state of neglect. One of the most challenging was Commerce Place, a 40,000-square-foot, 1950s four-building complex in the Warehouse District, now home to The Pit Authentic Barbecue. Then came the Heilig-Levine project, the transformation of a hotel-turned-furniture store into a restaurant and office complex, now home to Sitti and Gravy, among others, at the corner of Wilmington and Hargett streets. Another challenge: the Carolina Trust Building, now home to North State Bank and The Stockroom at 230 on Fayetteville Street. It was a space that had been mothballed for decades.
For its real estate development efforts, Empire Properties has been recognized by the Raleigh City Council with the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Community Appearance, by the Triangle Business Journal with the Edge Award for Best General Contractor in an Urban Environment, and by the Triangle Commercial Real Estate Women with the Impact Award for work in restoring downtown Raleigh.
For its historic preservation efforts, Empire Properties has been awarded the L. Vincent Lowe, Jr. Business Award by Preservation North Carolina, the highest honor presented to a business which assists or promotes historic preservation in North Carolina. Empire Properties also has also received a number of Capital Area Preservation Anthemion Awards for its outstanding dedication and commitment to excellence in historic preservation.
While its historic preservation, redevelopment, and real estate development efforts have had a strong, positive impact on downtown Raleigh and its buildings, Empire Properties also has been intimately involved with the City of Raleigh’s efforts to revitalize downtown. From actively participating in the Livable Streets Partnership Steering Committee and the Fayetteville Street Visioning Team, to providing in-kind office space to the Raleigh Urban Design Center (a Division of the Department of City Planning), Empire Properties has been deeply committed to brightening the future of downtown Raleigh.
Our passion for great food and excellent hospitality are woven through the unique dining experiences at each of our restaurants, all with their own distinct flavor and personality. Our celebration of food and the desire to serve you well, unite these uncommon dining experiences offered in our locally-owned and managed eateries. The atmosphere in our downtown Raleigh restaurants is also as unique as the culinary selections, each set perfectly in preserved historic buildings.
“As a tenant in downtown Raleigh for more than 25 years, I have leased office space in many buildings from various landlords, all quite different. Greg Hatem and Empire Properties, however, are truly exceptional. With respect and care, they restore and preserve many older buildings, always doing it the right way. They treat tenants as family, and I feel very fortunate to be one. Not only do my colleagues and I enjoy a glorious old building (with windows that open!), but we also get to work with an incredibly wonderful landlord and receive prompt help from friendly, professional staff. Who could want more?”
“The first time I met with Empire Properties’ representatives to look at office spaces in downtown Raleigh, they talked of building relationships with their tenants. Those words stayed in my mind, and I can say that they have done that and much more. Response to requests, questions, concerns and other tenant needs is quick and thorough, and I feel that there is a real sense of community between the tenants (in all of their buildings) and Empire employees. I look forward to many years as an Empire tenant.”
“Foundry Zero's initial encounter with Greg Hatem and Empire Properties yielded an engaged relationship, which provided us with a number of valuable options to maximize our decision-making process. Finally settling on an office space that was in restoration, Empire kept us in the loop weekly of its progress. In fact, by being informed of various development details, we became so interested that were invited to be involved closely with some of the final decision-making, which went beyond the typical business up-fit. And, of course, all decisions were made in the context of the building’s historic preservation.
The resulting feelings were that Empire was investing in more than just finishing a space for leasing to a tenant, but in a long-term mutually beneficial relationship. No more a statement could be true for us than when our business went into transition. Empire Properties worked with us to resettle into another office space and approached compensation in a fair and balanced manner. Since then, we have enjoyed observing the day-to-day activities of care and maintenance Empire has provided and the overall friendliness and accommodation of the staff. When growth again becomes an issue, we will come to Empire first for our needs.”
“When we were looking to for a larger office, the staff at Empire Properties bent over backwards to find the right space at an affordable price. Being a small non-profit organization, I really felt that Empire took a personal interest in helping us find the best rental situation. It's also nice to have a landlord that has a genuine interest in our office and its success rather than just the business relationship.”